Fun With Team Photos: Team MVPs (1926-present)

Here’s a new video, in the same vein as the Bo Schembechler ones I posted last week, featuring every Michigan Team MVP (renamed the Bo Schembechler Award in 1995) since the award was first given to legendary quarterback Bennie Friedman in 1926. I did my best, using the Bentley Library, to use a snapshot of each player from the official team photo for the season they won (there’s no team photos in the library after 2004, and some of the more recent ones aren’t high-res):

A few things that struck me while putting this together:

  • Just six players have won the award twice: Brandon Graham (2008-09), Mike Hart (shared with David Harris in 2006, sole winner in 2007), Anthony Carter (1980, 1982), Ron Johnson (1967-68), Tom Harmon (1939-1940), and Ralph Heikkinen (1937-38). I didn’t know much about Heikkinen, a consensus All-American guard in 1938 and the first junior to win the team MVP award, but he has an incredibly thorough Wikipedia entry, which included some very high praise from local writers:

    Detroit News sports editor H.G. Salsinger wrote: “He was Michigan’s outstanding player for the last two years. He was probably the best offensive guard Michigan ever had, and fitted perfectly into the new Michigan running attack. Fast and powerful, Heikkinen frequently blocked out two defense players. Heikkinen was the fastest charger in the Michigan line. He outmaneuvered opponents. On defense it was impossible to gain through his position, and he had a way of jamming opposing lines and making holes so that his secondary could break through and stop the ball carrier.”

    Ann Arbor newspaper writer, Bud Benjamin, wrote about Heikkinen: “If ever a player deserved national recognition it is the brilliant Ralph Heikkinen, 180 pounds of inspired dynamite in a great Michigan line. . . . He came out of a small town in northern Michigan, Hike, did, a sandy haired, extremely reserved Finnish boy with an irrepressible urge to play football.” He played between 50 and 60 minutes of every game in 1937 and 1938 and not once was a timeout called on his account or a substitution made for him due to injury. “He was on his feet – active , explosive, dynamic –all the time.”

  • Gotta love seeing the President, Gerald Ford, who won the MVP in 1934.
  • Interesting that the MVP the 1948 national title team was not one of the three first-team All-Americans — Dick Rifenburg, Pete Elliott, and Alvin Wistert, the last of the three Wistert brothers and a College Football Hall of Fame member — but guard Dick Tomasi, the team captain and a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
  • Is it just a coincidence that the team photos went from black-and-white to color in 1969, Bo Schembechler’s first season at Michigan?
  • I think Rob Lytle’s blonde porn-stache could’ve made a run at the “Best Facial Hair” award from last summer’s Fun With Team Photos post — if it wasn’t for Tim Davis’ magnificent handlebars. Ditto for Butch Woolfolk and Mike Hammerstein.
  • If you really want to see Tim Biakabutuka in the 1995 team photo, he’s third from the left in the third row — the resolution just wasn’t close to high enough to put in the video, and I couldn’t find a big enough individual photo either. Besides, I doubt anyone will complain about the photo I used instead.
  • With every time I see his name mentioned or catch video of a game from the past two years, I get more and more sad that Brandon Graham won’t be a Wolverine next season. He’s in the discussion as my favorite Michigan player … ever.
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